Tuesday, March 15, 2011

If you build it

I have something of an affliction: I am both an artist and a craftsman, which presents some interesting challenges. For one thing, I keep coming up with projects for builds I could do; on the other, I don't necessarily know how I'll do it.

Its a problem compounded by my data hoarding tendencies, so its very possible that, somewhere, I have the instructions for doing these particular projects, if I can only remember where the damned thing is.

Did I mention that I am not the most organized person (few... collectors are) and given the fairly wide fields of interest and a curious mind, I am somewhat subject to what could be called procrastination?

Actually, the problem is prioritizing. Many of the projects are not necessarily that long to implement, its that I always com up with different thing that should/could be done RIGHT NOW that getting anything started is a project unto itself... and the vicious circle completes its round.

Rambling intro, but now, the story. About twelve years ago (roughly) I decided that I could get a little more serious about making music and, to that end, I should get some sort of instruments. Also, some band mates. Getting people to join a band isn't that hard (good/reliable is an entirely different deal), but getting instruments is a bigger bitch when you are on minimum wage. SO you start scrounging. One of my splurges at the time was a good old Korg Poly 800, a synth that I like a lot, but which pretty much gave up working, probably after falling on the floor too many times. The other "find" was an electric guitar I found in a thrift store for $20.

At the time, I was flabbergasted, I mean how often do you find electric guitars (or any non-toy instruments) for that price, ever? It was a good deal I though. But there was a pretty good reason why it was there, at that price. The Ibanez (my first electric!) had a split neck, so not all that much in demand. I cant say that the whammy bar was any better, but there's ways around that.

So the neck got replaced (not by a proper replacement, just one that fitted) and we used it as badly as we could. Eventually I got my hands on several other guitars and the Ibanez was put away and nearly forgotten. Out of sigh, out of mind, right?

More or less. It has remained on the back burner, as a source for whatever parts that I could use for another project (I never did get around to build the ATG) but as a hoarder... er collector, I have more ideas than results, so it mostly ends up as boxes of parts, never getting used.

On my way back from work one day, I picked up a seemingly fine Gibson Epiphone Flying V body casually dumped into the trash. I picked it up, with the idea that I'd rebuild that bad boy at some point using, why not, the parts of the pretty listless Ibanez! The idea was there, and both relics laid buried in the closet.

The idea was still simmering on the back burner; anyone who knows me is aware of my leaning towards slow foods and long simmering, and that also applies to some of my less edible projects. The Flying V will get rebuilt, a crazy Frankenstein of a beast, but there's not much of the Ibanez that I'll salvage out of it.

See, it turns out that the Ibanez is probably the crappiest guitar I have. Even the entry level no-name strings I have have better electronics and sound that that sad, sad beast. I might salvage the pickups, but that's pretty much it.

As for the V, I seem to have to go and buy the parts, bit by bit, that I'll need. It'll still be a monster, it might well be not-so playable, but it'll be a monstrous beauty. If I have to eat less snacks, I will build it, and it'll be a unique baby indeed.

Don't mess with the man who collects old junk; even he doesn't what what he'll hit you with!

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Movie Review: Valhalla Rising

How often have you picked up a movie based on the cover, or seen a movie based on the poser, only to be struck with a case of "what the fuck was that" as the credits roll? Sure some of those movies turn out to be brilliant mindfucks, and some turn out to be at the very least entertaining, but many of them just turn out to be very sour brews indeed. This movie certainly belongs to the second category.

I mean, lets start with the above, it seems pretty gritty to me (especially if its been placed right next to Centurion). This looks like a movie that will make a Saturday night of light and bloody viewing, right?

And the synopsis: "1000 AD, for years, One Eye, a mute warrior of supernatural strength, has been held prisoner by the Norse chieftain Barde. Aided by Are, a boy slave, One Eye slays his captor and together he and Are escape, beginning a journey into the heart of darkness. On their flight, One Eye and Are board a Viking vessel, but the ship is soon engulfed by an endless fog that clears only as the crew sights an unknown land. As the new world reveals its secrets and the Vikings confront their terrible and bloody fate, One Eye discovers his true self"

Vikings, slavery, escapes, new world, terrible and bloody fate... sounds like proper Saturday night entertainment, no?

Well, no, not entertaining, unless that the first movie that comes to mind if I say "Western" is Dead Man. Dont get me wrong, Jim Jarmusch did a beautiful job with that film, but lets be honest and admit that John Wayne, Sergio Leone and even Young Guns came way ahead on the list.

This is the kind of movie only a hipster or art house fanatic would love: its slow, the dialogues are "deep" and the action is so sparse that someone picking his nose looks like ultraviolence. But seriously, the acting is terrible, the plotting non-existent; its a waste of celluloid. This is the kind of movie a writer would put out if he thought himself too smart for more regular fare; in fact this is exactly what happened, making a "different spin" kind of junk heap, full of pointless shots and silent scenes.

That this movie get compared to Herzog's Aguirre, The Wrath Of God, or to Alexandro Jodorowsky just shows how much he'd want to be cool, or talented. At best this might have made a decent short film, a good twenty-thirty minutes of existential gore, but no, its just drawn out boredom. You keep expecting that at some point something will happen, but at best somebody does something hare brained and gets killed. In the reviews I've browsed there's the constant mention of the brutality and violence in the film; its the most interesting parts of the movie, its would have benefited from quite a bit more of it. It makes the whole thing a lot less tedious.

Another recurring theme is how you shouldn't expect video game action, and that this is a more intelligent sort of movie... no, its just a very boring, ill crafted, empty take on spiritual journey. Not surprisingly, this movie seems backed up by the IFC, a channel I stopped watching a few years back when they kept playing incredibly pretentious films that bored me to tears. This is not a smart spiritual journey into the heart of the human soul, its ninety-three minutes of nothingness, sprinkled with some pseudo-existential monologue (not really any dialogue to speak of), but mostly long shots of barren terrain, most likely because it cost nothing and required no technical skills to achieve.

If that movie has a positive, then it'd be the soundtrack. Very atmospheric, alien, brooding, this said more than any character did at any time in his sad flick. Unfortunately, its not good enough to waste your time with this piece of junk, watch Dead Man, or any other Jim Jarmusch film instead. See, the sad thing is that Dead Man, the film that Refn is ripping off in this sad piece, is far superior, because the script, the acting, the directing, everything is better really, and it was done on nearly the same budget.

Done waste your time with this film, its really a bad marketing job that will put you to sleep.